I Wish Every Teacher Would Read…


When Kyle Schwartz asked his elementary students to complete the sentence “I wish my teacher knew…”, he did something extraordinary and his students rewarded him with their honesty. 



Kyle Schwartz doesn’t pretend to be the perfect teacher – he freely admits that he’s made his fair share of mistakes – but he does have some very valid, very relevant suggestions for teachers today. Suggestions which will:

  1. Help you to increase learning inside your classroom.
  2. Help you to foster a sense of community inside your classroom.
  3. Help you to provide a more inclusive and supportive environment inside your classroom.

At the core of Kyle’s approach lies a simple statement, made by child psychologist James Comer, that “no significant learning occurs without a significant relationship” and the belief that every child matters. 

He outlines and tackles real issues that face many of our students – food hunger and bereavements, for example – and his practical suggestions cover everything from how to welcome new children into your classroom, to holding ‘family-school conferences’ instead of a traditional ‘parents night’.

Understanding the realities of our students’ lives may not always be comfortable, but facing these issues head on is the best way to understand and help our students.

If you’re a teacher, you will benefit from reading this book and you will enjoy reading it! (I predict several eureka moments and lots of head nodding…) It doesn’t really matter which country you live in, or what age range you teach there, as issues our students face are the same. 

All of my teacher friends will be getting copies of this – from me! – for Christmas.

I Wish My Teacher Knew will be published July 12th by Da Capo Lifelong Books.

Weddings in Bookshops and Giggles on the L…

As I’m visiting New York for the first time, I decided to read something by a local author… So of course I went to the wonderful Housing Works bookshop in Manhattan. I have been buying books from them for years (over the Internet of course), so it was amazing to actually step inside their store in person… 


Did you know they do weddings?! They closed early for one while I was there. I found this photo on Yelp:

It was at Housing Works that I found Jesse Eisenberg’s ‘Bream Gives Me Hiccups’. A wonderfully zany collection of stories…You can expect wry incites into the modern day and an abundance of humour. 


The collection opens with a set of ‘restaurant reviews’ from a young boy (with an underlying commentary on his relationship with his divorcee mother). 


This is followed by a series of midnight text messages between a brother and sister; a father’s guide to the medications his son is prescribed; a series of conversations where men try to avoid invitations to dance; letters written to a high school guidance councillor; a monologue from a middle school bully; personalised spam emails; a series of imagined historic conversations; and so on…. 


What happens when a young boy, asked to wear his seatbelt, continues to question “why” in ‘Bream Gives Me Hiccups’, you ask? This is your answer (or part of it!):

Eisenberg’s selective use of stereotypes and attraction to cultural issues, make this a timely, funny and thought provoking book. It’s topics and approach may be ‘eccentric’ and ‘fluid’, but there is no doubt that for the reader, this book is a tour de force. 

I giggled on the subway and people stared… I didn’t care. #JesseEisenbergGaveMeGiggles

Kurt Vonnegut’s Crusade Against Stupidity #BookReport

Considering he passed away in 2007, reading ‘A Man Without a Country’ is probably the closest I’ll ever get to meeting Kurt Vonnegut. And I’m not okay with that. His essays here are honest, pessimistic and funny as hell.

Everyone should read Vonnegut. Age is not a factor here. Vonnegut is a Socratic thinker – he questions everything and that is not a bad thing.

So many topics are dipped in and out of in these essays and his opinions are gut punches against society, each and every one of them… The man did not shy away from calling out society’s ironies, lies and hypocrisies. 

I might not agree with all of his views, or his politics, but I really enjoyed reading about what he had to say. You can expect discussions around:

Greenpeace. Fossil fuels and our irresponsible, Earth-destroying, consumption of them.

“Guesser” politicians and the constitution. Kurt Vonnegut is fearless in his socialist leanings and his criticisms of  politicians – Stalin and Mao included.

There is a tragic flaw in our precious Constitution… Only nut cases want to be President. –p.102

The news. Only Chicago’s In These Times gave Vonnegut hope for our news cycles.

Religion.


War, the military and modern weaponry. Kurt Vonnegut versus weapons of mass destruction. 

They [soldiers] are being treated, as I never was, like toys a rich kid got for Christmas. –p.72

Education.


Racism and sexism and many other isms…


History and family.

 There have never been any ‘Good Old Days’, there have just been days. And as I say to my grandchildren, “Don’t look at me. I just got here.” -p.131

Technology and the Meaning of Life.

Electronic communities build nothing. You wind up with nothing. We are dancing animals. How beautiful it is to get up and go out and do something. We are here on Earth to fart around. Don’t let anybody tell you any different. -p.62

Healthcare. 


Writing tips and how he got into comedy/satire. 

Rules only take us so far, even good rules. –p.134

You can’t really misfire with a tragic scene. It’s bound to be moving if all the right elements are present. But a joke is like building a mousetrap from scratch. You have to work pretty hard to make the thing snap when it’s supposed to snap.” -p.128

Music.

Be prepared to be wowed by these essays… To dispair and to laugh out loud!

Some books recommended by Vonnegut:

  1. Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge – Ambrose Bierce
  2. Democracy in America – Alexis de Tocqueville
  3. The Tin Men – Michael Frayn
  4. The Mysterious Stranger – Mark Twain

Teaser Tuesday and Book Review: Fighting Dirty by Lori Foster

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I’m taking my #TeaserTuesdayPost from Lori Foster’s Fighting Dirty, coming February 23rd 2016 from Harlequin. This is at 13% on my e-ARC, when Merissa shows up at Armie’s flat…

“You’re in your underwear.”

Oh shit. He’d forgotten. Leaving the door open, he faced her. Damn, she was close. Like kissing close.

Like fucking close.

“They’re cute.”

“They’re absurd,” he corrected. The boxers sported two arrows – one that pointed up and said, The Man, and another that pointed to his junk and said, The Legend.

“I like them.” She leaned in – nearly stopping his heart – and gave the door a push to close it. Then she stayed right there, letting him breathe her in and feel the heat of her slender body and smell the scent of her skin.

This final book in the Ultimate series features a sexy, muscled fighter (Armie) and a sassy, wise-cracking, female bank teller (Merissa). Armie’s always been a player, but he has his reasons. After a bad experience as a teen, he’s learnt to avoid ‘monogamy’ and now he needs to keep his head down and stay out of the spotlight – or risk his world crashing down… But he’s always been tempted by Connor’s sister Merissa and even though he knows bringing her into his world would put her at risk, when danger enters her life in the form of a bank robbery, he can’t help but step in.


My Review:

Lori Foster is one of my favourite modern romance authors, but there were some aspects of Fighting Dirty which I found a little disappointing. Firstly, there are no flashback scenes to help establish any “boy falls for best friend’s younger sister” history, between Merissa and Armie. Also, in view of Armie’s reputation and profession, I thought the bedroom scenes were relatively tame. And we don’t hear much about Armie’s tattoos… #noooo!

There were some very funny/adorable moments between this pair. I will always remember the ‘Rissy Was Here’ scene, that one had me giggling out loud. #readthebook!

In Fighting Dirty we also get to revisit all the other pairings from this series and that’s a lot of fun. (When the women of this series set their minds to it, boy can they come up with some interesting after-hours girls’ night activities!…)

I liked the bromance too – there are so many great male characters and friendships in this series and Lori Foster can write men. I have no issue with her male P.O.V.s whatsoever; and I really liked how well-developed Armie’s character was. #all-the-feels

Armie and Merissa begin their romantic relationship quite quickly, so the narrative focus shifts to a crime/suspense angle about half way through… But, as the novel’s ‘bad guy’ is unmasked to the reader almost immediately, then the only question driving the narrative forward is ‘what will the bad guy decide to do to Merissa next?’ This made the book feel a bit of dragged out… #formulaic

If you want a by-the-book Romantic Suspense novel, then I’d recommend Fighting Dirty – this one’s got a bit of edge and a lot of Armie… #shirtless

Waiting on Wednesday: Remembrance (Mediator #7)

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“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases!

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Meg Cabot’s bestselling Mediator series, with ghost whisperer Susannah Simon, is getting an ADULT reboot. Remembrance will be released February 2nd, by William Morrow. I loved the original series, so this novel is at the top of my wish list for February!

Meg’s also written an e-novella, Proposal, which publishes January 19th in the UK (but is already available in the US).

You can take the boy out of the darkness.
But you can’t take the darkness out of the boy.

All Susannah Simon wants is to make a good impression at her first job since graduating from college (and since becoming engaged to Dr. Jesse de Silva). But when she’s hired as a guidance counselor at her alma mater, she stumbles across a decade-old murder, and soon ancient history isn’t all that’s coming back to haunt her. Old ghosts as well as new ones are coming out of the woodwork, some to test her, some to vex her, and it isn’t only because she’s a mediator, gifted with second sight.

What happens when old ghosts come back to haunt you?
If you’re a mediator, you might have to kick a little ass.

From a sophomore haunted by the murderous specter of a child to ghosts of a very different kind—including Paul Slater, Suze’s ex, who shows up to make a bargain Suze is certain must have come from the Devil himself—Suze isn’t sure she’ll make it through the semester, let alone to her wedding night. Suze is used to striking first and asking questions later. But what happens when ghosts from her past—including one she found nearly impossible to resist—strike first?

Which book are you “waiting on” this week?

Book Review: Sweet Ruin by Kresley Cole

This is classic Kresley Cole – action, adventure, humour and romance! #yummy
  
My mini review of Sweet Ruin

This round introduced us to a new force in the accession – The Bringers of Doom! #wolfwhistle #blewthehousedown

Jo was a kick ass main character, who knew exactly what she wanted. Commitment. A guy who was devoted to her. Monogamy. But Rune was just as stubborn – of course – and like Lothaire he took a bit of convincing… #insertgigglehere #joforthewin

There’s quite a bit of Nix in this book – pretty sure her time is coming! Something has to get in her way, things have gotten way too easy for her recently… #valkyries #uhoh #phoenixrising

If you’re not already reading the Immortals After Dark series, why not? It SOOO good. #manicsmile #dreamysigh

Book Review: All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

  
#pulitzer2015 #ww2 #booklove

The descriptions of Saint Marlo, on the tip of France, are what first drew me into this novel, but it was the journeys its main characters take which compelled me to finish it. 

It would be easy to suggest that ‘All The Light We Cannot See‘ was written to force us to confront the unpleasant truths of war and human nature, but it is also a story of hope, as hope is what makes you turn the page time and again, towards the novel’s end. 

The novel follows a collection of different characters, but the two main characters are Marie Laure and Werner. 

When first we meet her, Marie Laure is a young, blind French girl. The daughter of a locksmith, who works in one of the most important museums in Paris. Werner is a German orphan, living in a forgotten mining town. He has a talent for making and fixing radios. As World War Two moves ever closer, one will become the hunter and one the hunted, and yet strangely, both feel like victims of circumstance. Both seem to be walking a tragic path. 

This novel was bittersweet, inspiring and most of all memorable; ‘All The Light We Cannot See’ is beautifully written in lyrical prose, expressing ideas and thoughts which will haunt your mind long after Anthony Doerr’s precise wording fades from memory…

We all come into existence as a single cell, smaller than a speck of dust. Much smaller. Divide. Multiply. Add and subtract. Matter changes hands, atoms flow in and out, molecules pivot, proteins stitch together, mitochondria send out their oxidative dictates; we begin as a microscopic electrical swarm. The lungs the brain the heart. Forty weeks later, six trillion cells get crushed in the vise of our mothers birth canal and we howl. Then the world starts in on us.” 

– p.468

Book Review: Blood Kiss by J.R.Ward

A new spin off series!!!! I’m in heaven… #blackdaggerlegacy

A mini review of Blood Kiss

So Paradise and Craeg are part of a new set of BDB trainees – all already transitioned (unlike JM’s lot), which gave J.R. Ward room to approach their recruitment a little differently! In fact, there’s nothing in here RE the Omega and his cronies, so the best action sequences in the book do revolve around this bit of storyline. Sadly, for me this made the book 4 stars, not 5.
  
The chemistry between the two main characters really worked well and the signature BDB banter made my day a couple times. I did kind of feel that the ending was a bit rushed…

I wasn’t sure the Butch/Marissa drama was really warranted, I can see why they didn’t get their own sequel to work through their communication issues. My summary of these issues: “Butch sees me as a precious object.” “Marissa doesn’t need to know I have nightmares…” Get your shit together people!

RE trainees, can we have a Peyton and Novo romance next please?! 

Book Review: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

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Kurt Vonnegut wanted to write a book about the bombing of Dresden during World War Two, a book which didn’t glorify war… He succeeded.

This isn’t an Autobiography, although it contains elements of that (most notably during the first chapter and at end of the book). No, this is a Science Fiction novel – the  main character, Billy Pilgrim, is kidnapped by aliens and routinely becomes “unstuck in time”.

While reading Slaughterhouse-Five you’re never quite sure what will come next in the narrative. The majority of the book focuses on Billy’s experiences during World War Two, though.

Verdict:

Razor sharp; satirical; and completely absurd. Delivers everything it was supposed to and more…

Book Review: Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

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    Publisher’s Synopsis:

Dr Felix Hoenikker, one of the founding ‘fathers’ of the atomic bomb, has left a deadly legacy to humanity. For he is the inventor of ice-nine, a lethal chemical capable of freezing the entire planet. Writer Jonah’s search for its whereabouts leads him to Hoenikker’s three eccentric children, to an island republic in the Caribbean where the religion of Bokononism is practised, to love and to insanity. Told with deadpan humour and bitter irony, Kurt Vonnegut’s cult tale of global destruction is a funny and frightening satire on the end of the world and the madness of mankind.

    My Review:

Cat’s Cradle is a cynical, comedic, witty, dystopian view of the future, written in tight, economic prose.

From the very beginning of the novel, the reader is made aware that ‘Ice-Nine’ will eventually be the cause of a huge, end-of-the-world scenario and within the plot Vonnegut presents so many obvious opportunities for Ice-Nine’s release into the world, that when the act finally arrives – in the last 25 pages – it almost feels like a relief. In other words, this entire story reads like an anti-weapons-of-mass-destruction manifesto as it seems designed to persuade the reader that if you make such a thing, eventually someone will use it. The other strong message here, is that war is a huge waste of human life:

They [soldiers] are murdered children…. And I propose to you that if we are to pay our sincere respects to the hundred lost children [dead soldiers] of San Lorenzo, that we might best spend the day despising what killed them; which is to say, the stupidity and viciousness of all mankind.”   p.182

Vonnegut also spends quite a few lines satirising the roles of politics, and of religion, in society.

Truth was the enemy of the people, because the truth [poverty] was so terrible, so Bokonon made it his business to provide the people with better and better lies…. He asked McCabe [his friend the President] to outlaw him and his religion, too, in order to give the religious life of the people more zest, more tang…. And [so] McCabe and Bokonon paid a terrible price in agony for the happiness of the people – McCabe knowing the agony of the tyrant and Bokonon knowing the agony of the saint.”   pp.123-5

I found Bokonon’s invented religion great fun to read about. His teachings include advice such as “peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God”, information on the practice of boko-maru (the touching of two people’s feet, soul to soul) and other religious rites. The religious terminology is detailed and somewhat endlessforma, granfalloon, stuppa, calypso etc – but I didn’t actually mind that.

“We will touch our feet. yes,

Yes, for all we’re worth,

And we will love each other, yes,

Yes, like we love our Mother Earth.”

Somewhat predictably – because without this approach, Kurt Vonnegut would have found it much harder to mock society and to amuse us – there aren’t any characters in Cat’s Cradle, there are only caricatures. We meet a pushy, entrepreneurial American businessman; a scientist with poor social/life skills; and an extravagant and somewhat insane dictator, for instance. Still, nobody writes banter/dialogue quite like Kurt Vonnegut. Read just one of his books and you’ll want to read them all.


Jonah: “I’m not a drug salesman, I’m a writer.”

Julian: “What makes you think a writer isn’t a drug salesman?”

Jonah: “I’ll accept that. Guilty as charged.”


Julian: “Have you ever seen anyone die of bubonic plague?”

Jonah: “That unhappiness has not been mine.”


Newt: “For maybe a hundred thousand years or more, grownups have been waving tangles of string in their children’s faces…. No wonder kids grow up crazy. A cat’s cradle is nothing but a bunch of X’s between somebody’s hands, and little kids look and look and look at all those X’s…”

Jonah: “And?”

Newt: “No damn cat, and no damn cradle.”